Thursday, February 26, 2009

Thursday, February 26, 2009: Fitzy, Dave, Tanya and Garth

Just a quick note to say that I have disabled both the comments login and the annoying type-in-a-word thing. Captcha? Is that it? Anyway, you should be able to leave whatever comments you like without signing in or any other hassle. If I start getting ads for generic Miagra on my blog, I may have to change this; so don't abuse the privilege!

A condescending farewell
: Jeanette Fitzsimons, the matriarch of the green political movement in New Zealand and founding co-leader of the Green Party, has not died. In fact, she is just stepping down from the co-leadership in preparation for retiring at the next election, so I don't expect a eulogy from the Herald. However, nor do I expect the condescending pat on the head that yesterday's editorial offered. To be fair, the piece does salute her impressive personal characteristics - "high intelligence, intense application to problems and solutions, fairness, integrity, compassion, always civilised in debate".

The rest of the editorial makes two general claims worth thinking about. The first is that the Green party and the green movement have paid the price for a certain political naivety*, or at least a lack of political opportunism, and that this ought to be put at the feet of Fitzsimons. "Whether her purity has been good politics is a matter of argument," it says, and it surely is - after all, this is the fundamental dilemma of the principled politician. Of course, the Herald's grossly irresponsible reporting whenever a Green-led initiative came forward didn't exactly help. Take the so-called 'anti-smacking' bill. Say what you like about the revision - I have divided feelings on the matter - but it was originally picked up by Labour because people who had beaten their children had got off in court due to the wording of the law - "reasonable force". Perhaps Sue Bradford didn't do the best PR job, but the savagery of the media reaction was amazing to watch. The fact that a vast majority of MPs, including the National Party, ended up voting for the bill gives a more accurate impression of just how 'radical' the change was.

But secondly, the Green Party itself, the third-largest party in the New Zealand parliament is subtly dismissed by the editorial as little more than the green cliche of a collection of hippies. Talk about damned with faint praise: "the party "seems to have a durable appeal ... for its collegial, almost non-political style of its organisation"; "it has 'co-leaders', quaintly of each sex"; and it "gives its MPs room to pursue their own priorities" such as "Keith Locke['s] suspicions [!] of security services" - presumably the same security services which have been spending taxpayer money following and reporting on him even as an MP. And the idea that having the co-leadership (a system of government used in such "quaint" systems as the Roman republic) reserved for a man and a woman is "quaint" is fitting for the largest newspaper in a country where only 17 out of 64 of the coalition government's MPs are women.

Fitzsimons stepping down is apparently "an opportunity for the party to review its political approach," as their cause will be "harder to promote in a recession." If only we could have a similar commitment to the green politics from the Herald.

*This is the spelling from the Guardian Style Guide, Sophie.

Vivawatch: Why bother? Is anyone going to learn anything about the world, other than that the corrupt intertwining of the media and the consumption industry is as strong as ever, despite the recession? Buy, buy, buy! says the fashion-industrial complex, and the Herald gets straight into step! Coffee tables, $1000 dresses, cactus fountains, designer sunglasses, bottled spring water, um, jewel-encrusted cellphones, cars with a flower-holder, coffee tables... it doesn't matter what, just get on the phone to your latest stockist! Frankly, it sickens me and I refuse to be complicit.

Also, I seem to have lost my copy of Viva from yesterday.

Dear Sir: There are two interesting and thought-provoking letters to the editor today. But why would I want to tell you about them? Instead, here are two batshit-crazy ones:

David Harlock, of Red Beach, is sick of pretty much everything. "It is timely," he begins, "to remedy even more of the many unpopular blunders of the Labour government. The restoration of a credible honours system is especially vital." He does not say why it is vital, but what he says next ought to have been the first sign of madness for the person choosing what letters to include: "Jeanette Fitzsimons is worthy of being a dame, as is Helen Clark." There are three problems with this, of course. Firstly, the removal and replacement of the titles 'Sir' and 'Dame' was actually carried out in 1996, under Jim Bolger's National government. Oops! Secondly, I have a sneaking suspicion that neither Fitzsimons nor Clark, a confirmed republican, have any interest in being made a dame. And thirdly, why would David want the leaders of the blundering Labour/Green governments to be honoured? Perhaps this is all so drenched in irony that we can't see the forest for the trees. But he hasn't finished yet. David has his moment in the sun, and he's damned if he's not going to make hay! "The government should then reinstate the right of ultimate appeal to the Privy Council ... oust all this civil union nonsense ... scrap MMP and the lunacy of the list system." Is that all? It's hard to tell; after all, the Herald reserves the the right to edit, abridge or discard letters without notice.

Tanya Hart, of Beef + Lamb New Zealand, also has something to say. She's writing in a) because it's her job and b) to criticise the article in the Herald earlier this week than pointed out the massive energy inefficiencies of the beef industry. The article "provided no local context", she says - of course it didn't, as it was simply copy-and-pasted from the internet as far as I could tell.
Sorry to get on my vegetarian high horse, but her responses to the article are pretty disingenuous. Of course beef is more efficient here than in the massive food lots of of the US or Europe. But that doesn't mean it's efficient - we're still using cows for beef, right? the same as they are? Oh, but don't worry - "The meat industry is a participant in the Pastoral Greenhouse Gases Research Consortium, which aims to provide solutions for greenhouse gases produced by grazing animals." Well that's a relief - a consortium is at work. For God's sake. Then she says that "we are not eating more beef 'than we used to'", even though the article pretty clearly referred to worldwide consumption. For some reason, she points out that we are "well within the 'safe' guidelines outlined in the World Cancer Research Fund report", as if that had anything to do with what the article was talking about. And she finishes off with the best claim of all: "Eating less beef has serious nutritional implications - iron deficiency remains the most common nutritional deficiency worldwide." If you can't see what is wrong with that amazing abortion of a sentence, you may be iron deficient - go eat some beef.

The "Best of the Web": Every day the Herald has this small section on the Opinion page it consists of three different but equally important parts:

"Top 10 Stories": Want to know what everyone online wants to read about? No. 2 is "Ex-Crusader convicted of sex assault named". No. 3 is entitled "I came, I saw, I chundered".

"Your Views": Yesterday's topic? "Wanganui Mayor [and Editing the Herald favourite] Michael Laws says moves to add an 'h' to the city's name [ie, changing to the correct Maori spelling] will be resisted. What do you think?
  • "Don't worry about the 'H'," says Rob (Northern Territory [?]), "take the 'P' out of Wanganui first." As if those changes had anything in common.
  • Ray (Auckland) says that "The day I support correct pronunciation of Maori words is the day that Maori [all of them, presumably, possibly in a large stadium so we can make sure they have it right] pronounce English words correctly." Oh dear.
"Poll result": "2756 people responded to a poll on which asked: Is it true that women can't read maps?"
  • 54% - Yes
  • 46% - No

This truly is the best of the web. You know, people always say that the internet is like ultimate freedom, the freedom to be who you want, to do what you want to do and to say what you want to say. So when the anarchist revolution comes, you'll know where to find me - leading a contingent of armed riot police, beating a hippie with a truncheon.

Party on, Garth: I fear for Garth George. I think he may be losing his marbles. Two weeks in a row he wrote about fire engines. Before that, he wrote about taking a nice walk. At least he seems to be getting back to his usual self a bit today. He begins his piece by revealing his joy at his constitutional right to buy inefficient light bulbs, thanks to the National government's reversion of the least-offensive 'nanny-state' legislation of all time. But he's even more keen on kids eating pies! Perhaps he's been paid off by Beef + Lamb NZ (Beef + Lamb? Blamb or Leef?), but he's certainly keen on the right of our children to eat fatty, salty food at school. Why he doesn't take children's rights further - why should they be forced to go to school in the first place? - I don't know. But this isn't the most important thing about his column today.

That's because the second half of the column is dedicated to talking about a nice trip around the central North Island he took with his wife, and the delicious meals they had there. A delicious French onion soup in New Plymouth; mouth-watering lamb shanks in W[h]anganui; home-cooked food in Opunake. But best of all was a lamb and mint sauce pie, in Raetihi. Well that was a nice story, grandpa. "Now where was I..." Sure, I get the link - meat pies in tuck shops, meat pie in Raetihi. But it's really no more of a link than than some old man telling you about his time in the navy in the war, and then segueing seamlessly into talking about taking his boat out into the gulf to go fishing, and then about the lovely fish he ate the other night. And how am I supposed to stay mad with that?


  1. Did GG mention having an onion tied to his belt?

  2. What's amazing is that, despite your apparent "newsrage", you're able to find so few questionable articles in the Herald. At most it seems to be three or four a day, out of what is a fairly substantial publication. Is this comparable with supposedly "quality" dailies from the UK or elsewhere? I suspect so.

  3. How come you counted ACT as part of the government but not the Maori Party, and then only counted National Party women MPs, didn't add Heather Roy but added ACT and Peter Dunne to the total? Should be either 17 out of 58 or 20 out of 69 depending on how you count it.

    Also the titles Sir and Dame were recommended to be axed in 1995 but weren't until 2000, which is where the confusion comes from.


  4. Frankly, I counted the MPs on my fingers from a Wikipedia article. I left out the Maori Party under the impression that they were under a different arrangement than ACT and Dunne. This may be wrong - I wasn't in the country for the election and aftermath. I'll leave the question of whether 20 out of 69 is considerably better than 17 of 64 up to you.

    As for the honours - you are right. The New Zealand Order of Merit did originally carry titles at the highest levels, so Dave does deserve some credit. Mea culpa. I really need a research assistant.

    As for 'Anonymous (2)' - let's call you, I don't know, 'Chris' - when I receive your generous Paypal donation I will commence writing about every article in the daily newspaper. Or you could keep your money and invest in a maths education that will allow you to count past 'three or four'.

  5. You can call me "Chris" if you like, but most call me Andrea (I occassionally get sexy bitch, which I also find acceptable, though find totally unacceptable the form of my name from the original 90210).

    Evidently you are incapable of handling criticism, despite being perfectly willing to dish it out (during apparently abundant spare time). And if, as you claim, you really do review peoples' university theses, it is concerning that you rely on Wikipedia for your "research".

    Pot-kettle-black comes to mind, but I would never resort to such hackneyed verse and obvious observations.

    Anonymous (2)

  6. If you don't mind, I'll continue to call you Chris - a far more pleasing mental image (more pleasing than Andrea from 90210, that is).

    I must admit that Wikipedia is hardly the ideal research tool. I did contact Parliament to try and get from the whore's mouth, as it were, the correct figures; however, they did not return my calls. To make matters worse, I honestly thought Heather Roy was a man.

    Anyway, your comments have been noted, and passed on to my legal team as evidence in a potential libel suit.